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The Matrix Awakens is a cool tech demo with a surprising bit of charm to it

Show up for the tech showcase, stick around for the fun banter

Last night, Epic released a free interactive experience called The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience. It’s a neat tech demo for what the Unreal Engine 5 can do, for now and for the future. But for fans of The Matrix, it’s also a fun slice of life in The Matrix.

It’s available for free on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, and you can find the download pages through the Unreal site here. And it’s pretty short too, so if you want to go in completely fresh, it’s worth doing so.

The tech demo kicks off with a sequence that blends FMV into CGI, blurring the line between real and Unreal pretty quick. It’s a lot of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss talking about the themes of The Matrix: what do concepts like body, identity, and soul mean in a digital space?

Along the way, there are callbacks to The Matrix movies, specifically the first one. The Matrix Awakens goes back to scenes like “wake up Neo” and Morpheus revealing the true nature of the Matrix in the first film. And, of course, red pill / blue pill.

When it jumps out to a car chase in the city, though, things get even more intense. Here, animated versions of Reeves and Moss banter back and forth about marketing and missing these old days. It’s honestly one of my favorite parts of the whole experience; these two still have a ton of on-screen chemistry, even within the Unreal Engine, and for Matrix fans it’s fun to watch them quip back and forth.

Then your player character shows up, Neo does his Superman thing, and you take the controls. As Trinity steers the car down the freeway, you try to shoot out the tires of pursuing Agents. It’s really straightforward—choose target and shoot are your options here—but it’s still a pretty fun sequence that looks great. Eventually the big guns get brought out to bring down a helicopter, and one last QTE brings the overpass down to end a massive chase sequence.

It was here that I had a crash of my demo, the one blemish on the experience, though I didn’t mind the excuse to re-watch the opening. And once that concluded, a series of tech demos rolled across the screen before plopping me down, right in the middle of the city.

This is the “end” of the demo, or at least the guided portion of it. From here on, you’re able to roam the city to your heart’s content. You can run around, snatch a car from the side of the road and drive, or make like Neo and fly. Certain points in the city will let you toggle effects like day/night lighting. And of course, there’s a photo mode.

Others have pointed out that this is an impressive tech demo of what Unreal can do on next-gen hardware, and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. But as someone who also recently re-watched The Matrix trilogy in anticipation of the new movie, this was a neat little slice of Matrix content.

If anything, I hope this becomes a bullet point in a pitch deck somewhere that leads to a new Matrix game. It’s been ages since The Path of Neo or Enter the Matrix, and I think we’re just about due for a new one. With the tech Epic and Unreal put on display with The Matrix Awakens, it could be a real good time.

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